Country Miles (Dorset Invader Marathon 2018)

stonking great medals at the end, regardless of where we finished

 

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Nearly 29 miles of this! Mmmmm Mmmmm (as grandson, Olly, would say)

If you’re looking for the finish line in a trail marathon, you won’t find it at 26.2 miles! Certainly not at the fabulous Dorset Invader. We’ve tackled many White Star Running events and you’re never short changed on distance. More muck for your buck, as it were. I whole heartily approve, we’d soon be moaning if it was short!

In a break from tradition, our wingman, Martin, was chauffer for the day, his new stead a step up in size from our mini. We settled into the Volvo luxury and headed east. Yet again, it was destination Dorset for #TeamBonfield and our sugar fetishist running chum.

As the main man at White Star pointed out in response to a couple of social media grumblings, these wonderful country routes which trail events companies map out for us depend on the good will of the people who own the land we have the pleasure of skipping through.

With farmland being at the mercy of climate and delicate crops needing to be avoided, routes will be varied and negotiated on a race by race basis. This year’s Invader route being quite different to the one we ran two years ago. A clever quirk of this year’s route was the loop which was repeated, the way it was set up, it never felt as if we were running laps.

With the forthcoming storms holding off until after we’d finished, there was only a wild wind to contend with. So much of this gorgeous route was on trails through woodland and alongside tall hedgerows that we were only intermittently exposed to the howling breeze.

“Are you two going to do ANY running?” Martin briefly turned to ask. The three of us started together, Martin speeding off as we, at best, sauntered up the first field. There’s plenty of time, we assured him, fully intending to use it.

dsc_12174040429068873134989.jpgA big centurion, and indeed a little centurion, both on horseback, ceremoniously set us on our way for this Roman themed event.

About 250 runners were soon spread out as the course picked its way through the fields and tracks of the host farm. After a couple of miles (bearing in mind, my memory is rarely chronological and certainly not detailed) we reached the one road crossing in the event. It was expertly and safely manned by a team of marshals, with clear and precise instructions as to how and when to cross.

Oh, and some 6 hours later, when we were on our way to the finish, the same crew were still there, still cheerful and still as attentive. A massive thank you to them and all of the fabulous volunteers, marshals and aid station crews on the day. Above and beyond as ever.

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Martin, on his way to 3rd in his age group, despite starting with us!!!

After the road crossing, we started to make progress as we warmed to the task. Nicky is a serial start-at-the-backer, much to Martin’s chagrin. His argument is that if you start behind somebody who is going to run at exactly the same pace as you throughout the event, you will end up behind them by the amount of head start you gave them. My argument is: SO?

Nicky’s thinking is a tad more considered. If she starts too far forward in the pack, then runners covering the ground quickly will be scuttling past. Potentially demoralising.

We always say, as runners disappear away from us early in the race, if they are that much quicker than us, then we won’t see them again and good luck to them. If they are a similar pace to us then they may be setting off too quickly and we’ll catch them later on anyway.

BUT, we won’t have had a stream of faster runners whizzing past us.

It didn’t do us any harm, despite starting with a saunter up the hill, behind everyone, there were over 100 behind us 28 miles later. Actually, it didn’t do Martin any harm either, he finished an hour in front of us and third in his age category. And we ALL got stonking great medals at the end, regardless of where we finished.

There was a quite flat and runnable 2 mile section along the old Somerset and Dorset Railway which is quite unusual for a White Star event and some of this featured twice. A cracking section to tick a few miles off and fascinating to run through what used to be stations.

If you enjoy running on corn fields, gravel tracks, wooded trails, quiet lanes, old railway lines, farmyards, bridleways and like a good few hills, then this is definitely for you.

We took the whole thing VERY seriously….

Well, we’re off to Cornwall for my favourite ever event in just over a week. The R.A.T. festival of coastal trail running (read all about last year HERE). With this in mind, completing a lovely long trail marathon has given us both a confidence boost about our fitness as we start to, er, ‘taper’……..

You can check out our Dorset Invader performance on Strava HERE.

So much to say, so little time…. stay tuned and keep on keeping on folks…..

That’s 3 YEEESSSSSSS’s

our grandchildren can point at a map of Snowdon and say ‘Nanny and Grandad’ did that

If we 100% KNEW we would succeed, well, it wouldn’t be a challenge…..

Prior to this weekend just gone, my proudest ‘Team Bonfield’ moment had been when we crossed the finish line of the Dartmoor Discovery 50k Ultra just inside the time limit.

 

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Nicky eating up the early climbs

The Snowdonia Trail Marathon topped that, in so many ways. WOW. Too many breathtaking views to take in. WOWs  by the sack full.

 

AND 3, count ’em, THREE ‘YEEESSSSSS!’ moments.

Ahhh, the dreaded cut-offs. Only one here, after the climb up to Pen Y Pass. About 19 miles in. From there it’s up the mountain proper on the Pyg Track.

As we left the starting pen in Llanberris, nothing was certain. Nearly 700 runners, some strutting, some staring, some nervously pacing or muttering (‘madness’ whispered one guy as he fidgeted and fussed), listened to the race briefing.

Yes we can hear you at the back. Yes we can clearly hear that it is VERY important not to veer from the route and DEFINITELY not climb any gates or fences. More on that later…..

 

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Everybody listening??

We had dined with my brother and his wife, who live in Kimnel Bay, a feast on the eve of this epic adventure. Regular Snowdonia hikers, they were eager to share their local knowledge and we pored over the route to get ‘beat the cut off’ tactics in place.

 

9am. A brief road section through the crowds of spectators and Half and 10k runners awaiting their turn. Then up.

And up.

 

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Top of the first climb. WOW the views!

Nicky pushed hard here, brisk hiking the steepest bits, easy paced running where possible. When we reached the top of this climb, the 3.5 miles had taken us about 15 minutes less than my loose plan. Result.

 

Some moor like terrain, downhill and flat and we were feerrrlying…… oh hang on….

A queue. When I say a queue, probably about 200 people waiting to negotiate a stile. Hhhmmmm.

Some, whose race was obviously more important than ours, decided climbing a padlocked gate followed by a wire fence would mean they didn’t have to wait like everyone else.

Mildly annoying after 5 minutes.

Annoying after 10 minutes.

Absolutely infuriating when, after 15 minutes, the marshall charged with the unfortunate task of policing this area shouted to the approaching runners at the back of the field to take this alternative route…….

Nicky had worked so hard to get this far in this time, yet, now I was contemplating the cut off again whilst participants who had taken considerably longer on the climb didn’t even pause as they disappeared off ahead of us.

Potentially, a scenario where some of those runners who hadn’t had to wait at all, but took 15+ minutes longer than us over the first 4 miles, narrowly made the cut off whilst we narrowly missed it, was starting to play out in my head.

We were cross.

2017-07-23 09.32.08Once we were over the stile, and then through the next couple of miles and occasional further stiles, we made great progress on the rough terrain. Unfortunately the field of runners was out of sync now and we were constantly trying to weave through those who had been behind us until the stile incident. Or stilegate, as it shall be known.

Once we’d reached mile 6 we had found some space to run in and easier terrain for a while. A familiar face, Kevin (a regular face at events we have enjoyed in Dorset), greeted us at this point which was a real boost as well. We settled in to rattling off some miles as we ran through forests, around lakes, alongside miniature railways. All to the spectacular backdrop of the mountains around us.

Progress was good. I started to fear the cut off less and less and more and more enjoy absolute joy of running in this incredible place with this incredible woman.

I made a pact with myself to take no pictures until we reached that cut off. After negotiating a runner-jam in a single track section through the woods at the bottom of Pen Y Pass, we freed ourselves from the pack and marched the 2 mile climb to reach the cut off with about 40 minutes to spare.

 

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Cut off smashed??? We’ll drink to that….

YEEESSSS!!!

 

 

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Up

Now the hard climbing started. Please forgive us a smug moment here! We are rather proud to be running grandparents knowing our grandchildren can point at a map of Snowdon and say ‘Nanny and Grandad’ did that!

 

It’s a great leveller, a mountain and we were amongst runners of all ages as an unspoken comradery developed.

Nicky, strong as an ox. The climb is about 5km long from that point and is pretty relentless. It scrambles and winds and teases then punishes and it does go on and on. All to the incredible backdrop of the peaks and ridges all around.

My sister, Karen, who regular readers will know, was taken from us just so tragically early, would have loved to see us doing this. She would have revelled in the happiness I have found with Nicky and would have been championing us in all our adventures. I wore my ‘Karen Ribbon’ for this run, and definitely felt a gentle extra push as we reached for the top of the climb.

Talking of which, it turned out my brother, mother and uncle were all glued to the tracker and shared in our ‘YEEESSS!’ moments ‘live’!

Suddenly, through the descending mist (which was quite welcome as the heat was starting to build), a high-viz vest in the distance, still way up above us, but a welcome sight.

 

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Top of the Pyg Track – glad we didn’t go DOWN that way!

YEEESSSS!!

 

2017-07-23 15.18.32Exiting the other worldly atmosphere of the Pyg Track as the tourist trail becomes the Miner’s Track, with the train passing too, was completely bizarre and quite magical.

Knowing it was quite literally all down hill from here, we high-fived and then set about the descent…….

 

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DOWN!

Unfortunately, almost immediately, Nicky had a sharp and immobilising pain in the back of her knee. This stopped us in our steep and gravelly tracks, on this, er, steep gravelly track.

 

A fistful of vitamin I (Ibruprofen), gently and gingerly building up speed, we soon got up to ‘Ahhhweeeeeee’ velocity as we tumbled down and down and down.

2017-07-23 15.29.52Llanberris was soon coming into view, as we went further down and down and down. The very bottom of the descent was sooooo steep as it turned to tarmac before a naughty loop through a park and we could clearly hear the announcer calling the runners in.

“….. and coming in now, holding hands, in a cracking time of 7 hours and 24 minutes, it’s KEVIN BONFIELD and AMY SOMETHING…………..

…….. oh No it’s not it’s Kevin and NICKY BONFIELD!!!”

YEEEESSSSS!!!

 

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Sooooo proud…. I think there may be something in my eye…..

We truly felt (still feel) we had achieved something extraordinary.

 

 

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Down in one, down in one….

A fabulous, brutal, beautiful event. It’s big, probably 2000 runners across the 3 distances, yet it was so welcoming, brilliantly marked and marshalled (I think stilegate is a glitch, it needs addressing, but certainly the only real blip) and the event base in Lanberris has the cosy feel of a much smaller event.

 

 

2017-07-23 17.59.01-1It wasn’t necessarily on our bucket list, but it has given us a wonderful glow……..

 

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Howard and Hilda enjoyed Pen y Pass so much, they went back the following day!

 

Next up, the Cornish coast beckons in the R.A.T. ……..